After 44 victories and a trip to the playoffs, the Pistons impressed analysts and fans, who view them as a young, up-and-coming team.
With their free-agency moves — point guard Ish Smith, forward Jon Leuer and center Boban Marjanovich — they managed to get younger. Leuer is 27 years old, and Smith and Marjanovich are 28. They replaced Steve Blake (36), Anthony Tolliver (31) and Joel Anthony (34).
While backup center Aron Baynes is the oldest player on the team — he turns 30 in December — the leadership mantle will be spread around, with veterans taking charge for summer workouts.
“That’s kind of how it goes; we have to step up,” said point guard Reggie Jackson, 27, entering his sixth season. “The organization put that upon us and myself to step up this year and be an even more impactful leader and more of a voice of reason and direction for our guys.
“I know I have a little more burden on my shoulders but it’s something I asked for and something I wanted. We’ll figure it out collectively.”
Tolliver had been a mentor for Andre Drummond, and Blake was a veteran voice for the point guards. Tolliver also was one of the most respected voices in the locker room, but signed as a free agent with the Kings this summer.
It was a unique dynamic having the most veteran and vocal players as reserves. But it worked.
“We did have steady rocks with Joel Anthony, Anthony Tolliver and Steve Blake, who really watched over us,” Jackson said. “Unfortunately, they’ve moved on and we have to find a way to get it done.
“Hats off to those guys for everything they taught us. We’re definitely appreciative of it and we’ll definitely use it in the future. They’re a big part of building the culture here. Now it’s time for us to carry the torch.”
Darrun Hilliard, who missed the Summer League with a back injury, appears to be on track to start camp healthy. He’s been participating in light optional workouts, but isn’t doing anything that could cause a setback.
“(The trainers) are trying to limit his workload a little bit but for the most part, he’s been doing everything,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “He’s actually doing pretty well.”
Hilliard averaged four points and 1.2 rebounds, shooting 38 percent on 3-pointers in 38 games last season.
... One of the key matchups to watch during camp is for the third point guard position.
Lorenzo Brown had a good Summer League, and with his familiarity with the offense, looks to be ahead of Ray McCallum Jr.
“(We’re looking for) a guy we think will help us the most and is the most ready to step in and play,” Van Gundy said. “They’re both just playing to their strengths and we’ll make that decision when the time comes.”
Each player is on a non-guaranteed contract.